Mad Cow Not a Suspect In Fatal Marin Illness

A rare neurodegenerative disease in Marin County is not mad-cow disease.

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    Mad cow disease, aka Bovine spongiform encephalopathy, causes the brain and spinal cord in cattle to turn to mush. One person has died and another fallen ill in Marin County from a disease that has similar symptoms but that is not mad cow disease, according to public health officials.

    The beef is still all right. Or at least not bad.

    Bovine spongiform encephalopathy, otherwise known as mad cow disease, is not suspected in the death of a Marin County woman, according to health officials.

    One woman has died and another person is sick with a "rare degenerative brain disorder" that bears similarities to mad cow disease, but the disease itself is not suspected. Nor is there any risk of a contagious spread of the illness, known as Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.

    The disease causes early dementia and is always fatal, the newspaper reported.

    "We have no evidence that suggests a causal linkage between the suspect cases nor is there any evidence to suggest a risk in food supply," the state public health department said in a statement.

    Creutzfeldt-Jakob is very, very rare: 300 people nationally and 30 in California are afflicted annually. The disease "comes up suddenly and for no known reason" or from genetics, the newspaper said.

    The disease, which causes a buildup of proteins in the brain, has no cure. Including cows, which, at least for now, are A-OK in Marin County.